Brunswick, Merrymeeting Audubon receive grant to protect chimney swifts

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BRUNSWICK — The new $28 million elementary school on McKeen Street could soon become the state’s only protected roosting site for chimney swifts.

The town and the Merrymeeting Audubon announced Wednesday that efforts to build a roosting tower for the migratory birds at the new school would receive $7,500 from the TogetherGreen national grant program. The tower has been included in plans for construction of the new school, which is being built on the site of the recently demolished old Brunswick High School.

Over the years since the old school closed, its chimney became home to what some believe is the largest chimney swift roost in the state. After the old school was ordered razed by the Town Council in 2007, several town and conservation officials lobbied to build an observation and roosting tower at the new school to replace the old chimney. 

The birds tend to migrate in flocks from nesting regions in South America. They are best in known in North America as acrobatic fliers and ravenous consumers of insects.

The TogetherGreen grant will help fund the new tower, which will be accompanied by educational signs throughout the new school.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to provide a watchable wildlife opportunity for our downtown neighborhoods,” Steve Walker, a project coordinator for Merrymeeting Audubon, said in a press release. “Not only will this project help a species of greatest conservation need and bring visitors to our downtown on summer evenings, it will demonstrate to future generations that local grassroots efforts can make a difference.”

According to the release, there are no protected swift roosts in Maine. The project, the release said, will be the first formal action “to conserve this rapidly declining species.”

Merrymeeting Audubon and the town are also planning a public “Swift Night Out” series of events.

“Saving the swift roost will increase local awareness of our town’s natural resources and help to reconnect our youth with the natural phenomenon that surround them in their daily lives,” according to Merrymeeting Audubon.

The $7,500 grant is one of 48 recently announced by the TogetherGreen program, which has awarded $1.1 million this year. The initiative is a partnership between the National Audubon Society and Toyota. 

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or